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You’re busy, I’m busy.  So I aim to keep these blogs to six pithy paragraphs, all inspired by ideas I’ve nicked from the newsroom I still work in.  Thanks for taking an interest.  

Here’s an idea if you want to make your meetings a bit more effective.  Put the music on.  Jazz, Pop, Classical, Salsa, Thrash (well, perhaps not Thrash) — most of them should work.

We’ve all known since the nursery how music can transform mood.  And we all know how sterile the mood can be as people shuffle into a meeting room or a training event.  So here’s my trick.  I play a few minutes of music that I’ve downloaded into the first slide of my presentation — music that will suit the age of the audience as they arrive and cluster around the coffee.  I find jazz often works.  If nothing else, it breaks the ice.

It’s a device we use quite regularly in TV reporting — if a news story requires reflection, I find a little music laced between interviews and voiceover can add a third dimension (though it has to be carefully measured, and if misjudged can cause more irritation than pleasure.)

As a way to set the tone for a training workshop, nervous arrivals have told me it’s reassured them — “hmm, I didn’t see this coming, this might be a bit different, this might even be fun …” 

If the idea works for you, you might want to think about using it at the end of your meeting, too.  I give all my guests a one page feedback form to fill in.  I’m currently playing an upbeat Amy MacDonald track as they do so.  I don’t think it’s cheating.

If it all sounds a bit cheesy (echoes of The Office?), then maybe it is.  But I’ve had no complaints so far, and a fair bit of quiet thanks.  If a different vibe is what you’re after at an event that can be all too predictable, maybe a different vibe is the answer.

If you would like your team to work, think and laugh fast, give me a call to see if my Newsroom Bootcamp workshop might fit the bill.  Or come along to my next ticketed event in November, and try it for yourself!    

(photo courtesy of cloudpix.co)

You’re busy, I’m busy.  So I aim to keep these blogs to five pithy paragraphs.  Thanks for taking an interest.

My friend Juliette with a little girl in Kabubbu

Abigale Spree, missing from Rainham since 22 July

A thought about focussing on the actual point of why you’re doing what you’re doing. 

Do you sometimes lose sight of what you’re trying to do in the first place?  I’ve done it twice this week.

The first time was this weekend, when my husband Henry and I opened our garden to raise funds for the Quicken Trust, a charity based in East Sussex that is doing mind-boggling things (building homes, schools, a health centre, providing water and the internet) in Kabubbu, a village in Uganda.  We’ve volunteered there ourselves, so know what is at stake.   Several thousand miles away, our garden is (though we say it ourselves) a startlingly large hidden Victorian gem on the Brighton seafront, and in previous years we’ve rustled up about £800 for Kabubbu village from generous tea and cake hungry visitors.

We opened at 11am, but it wasn’t until about 2pm I realised what I was allowing to happen.  All the chatter, curiosity and flattery was about our secret garden.  I’d done next to nothing to quietly hand out the leaflets, point out the Ugandan craft on sale, and talk about the bare vegetable gardens of Uganda.  At this point the rains came and the visitors didn’t, but I made sure I did things a little differently the next day.

The second time was yesterday, in the TV newsroom.  I was overseeing a rather alarming report about Abigale Spree, a 15 year old girl who’s been missing from Rainham for nine days.  Our report used, with the family’s blessing, some tearful interviews from her aunt and father, and shots of posters being put up in North Kent.  But when I checked through the report shortly before broadcast at 10.25pm, I realised something was wrong.  We hadn’t used as many close up pictures of Abigale herself as we could have, in a news report that had a duty to inform.  Thankfully, we had time make the change.

So next time I’m preparing a special event or compiling a report, I’ll try harder to remember why I’m actually doing it, and what I hope its outcome might actually be.

Kent Police are keen to hear from anyone who can help with their enquiries about Abigale — more details here.   The Quicken Trust is based in Hailsham, East Sussex, providing support for the village of Kabubbu, north of Kampala.

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